By: Davine Holness
A disturbing trend has been occurring in recent decades. Around the globe, depression has been on the rise. In fact, the World Health Organization states that suicide rates have gone up by a shocking 60% in the past half-century. Furthermore, the worldwide burden (a measure of time lost to healthy years of life) of mental illness and substance abuse has gone up by 36.7% since 1990. Certain factors – such as the fact that mental illness is losing its stigma causing more people to report and get treatment for depression – contribute to the increase in depression rates. Nevertheless, even taking these possible confounds into consideration cannot entirely explain the trend. This change has many bewildered and wondering: What is causing depression to increase in prevalence? Definite answers are hard to come by, but research has produced various theories which are accepted by many health professionals.
One factor that is often faulted for the increase in depression is the food we consume. In the past several decades there has been an exponential increase in the consumption of processed foods. Substances such as high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered wheat gluten – things that weren’t present in our ancestral environment – can have unwanted effects on our bodies, leaving us vulnerable to psychological stressors. It is well known that body and mental health are tightly correlated, so many scientists attribute part of the increase in depression to our dietary changes.
Another probable contributor is that people are now much less connected to one another than they used to be. Face-to-face conversation is increasingly replaced by video chats, voice calls, and textual communication, each method less personal than the previous. Physical touch is at an all-time low: many of us now make physical contact with our cell phones more often than with each other. We are also less dependent on one another now that technology can provide us with so much information and so many services. We google questions we would have asked our friends. We use GPS systems for directions rather than asking one another. We seem to need each other less and less. But interdependence and physical touch have been found to bring us joy. Humans have a need to feel connected, and since today’s society is structured in a way that often neglects this need, feelings of sadness and loneliness are allowed to fester in a way that less likely prior to recent technological advances.
Stress is another major concern for current mental (and physical) health. More than ever before, people seem to be constantly busy. Expectations are high, productivity is emphasized, and our fast-paced society leaves us little time to relax. Even when we do get time to take a healthy break, we often feel that we should be doing something, or we don’t know how to relax. The constant pressure from work, family, and living up to society’s standards is likely to be one of the culprits for the way depression has crept into higher prevalence rates.
Social media has also been blamed, due to the way it causes us to compare ourselves to our peers. A profile on a social media website or application is crafted by the individual it represents, and people usually choose to expose the best parts of their lives while obscuring the worst parts. People compare themselves to these altered presentations of their friends and feel that their lives come up short. Websites like facebook often plague people with images of parties to which they weren’t invited, vacations they can’t afford, and milestones in life that they haven’t reached. We don’t realize that we’re only seeing one side of someone’s life, so our comparisons lead to jealousy. As a result, people are less content with their lives.
Whatever the cause, depression is a pressing matter that cannot be ignored in modern-day societies. If you think you might be depressed it is important to talk to someone to get help. Feel free to contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.
Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.
Borchard, T. (n.d.). » Why Is There More Depression in the World? – World of Psychology. Psych Central.com. Retrieved May 22, 2014